I’m sitting here, writing this blog post, four weeks post-hysterectomy.
Never did I ever imagine having a hysterectomy at 44. It was something the generation above me did. Not young healthy women “like me”. And even then, not something ever talked about. Yet here I am. Weeks out from having this live-giving organ removed, still feeling a little tender and raw.
Although I knew that the surgery itself wasn’t as physically invasive as some procedures, what I didn’t realize is emotionally invasive it would be. How this “simple” procedure would change me. Our wombs and this sacred space are so deeply connected to our identities and our emotions. Our creativity and our energy. A connection that many of us, myself included, are just now beginning to understand.
I had no idea how defining this procedure would feel for me. How much it would change and shift my identity. Something I personally wasn’t prepared for, as it’s something not often talked about. Especially in the 40-something age bracket.
And yet, it’s something that happens to millions of women every year.
By the age of 60 1 in every 3 women will have this life-giving organ removed.
But somehow, it’s never discussed. At least not in any of my communities. It’s not something my doctors ever discussed over the course of a decade of having babies and being in and out of doctors’ offices. It’s something I never read a pamphlet on while sitting in a waiting room. Never read a book about, or seen Instagram posts on.
But somehow, 33% of you reading this now will likely experience this defining procedure. A statistic I still can’t seem to wrap my head around, for so many reasons.
My personal, decision to have a hysterectomy happened rather quickly. One that didn’t really feel like an option.
My doctor had found a mass the size of a lemon in my uterus that had grown within 9 months of my last visit (which felt oddly ironic). Because of the sheer size and speed at which the tumor was growing, we made the quick decision as a team to have a full hysterectomy.
I had undergone a procedure less than 9 months before to remove a similar mass and “clean out” my uterus (for lack of a better word). So after seeing the speed and sheer size that these growths were returning, my decision felt crystal clear.
I had undergone two biopsies in less than a year on my uterus. Thankfully both resulted in a clean bill of health, but a gamble I was no longer willing to risk. I, and all of us, have heard too many stories where the results were not as fortunate.
With five people back at home who needed me to be healthy, the decision at that moment, laying on the ultrasound table looking at the mass growing inside me, was black and white.
Where do I sign? Just like any woman in my situation, I would do anything to ensure my odds of being there for those I love.
A week later, I was in the operating room.
After 5 pregnancies, 4 full-term births, a miscarriage, c-section, and one myomectomy later, the organ that had given me so much life. That had made me a mother. That had shaped my identity…was gone.
At 44, I had a full hysterectomy.
I was now the “one out of 3”.
The procedure itself was fairly easy and done laparoscopically. I was told I’d be “back to normal” within a few weeks (which isn’t really the case). My doctor forewarned me that I’d have about half an hour post-op before being discharged to go home.
I joked with her that my kids take longer to eat at Chipotle than I do to recover in the hospital after having an organ removed. Only it wasn’t funny, because it wasn’t a joke. Gotta love Western medicine.
Thankfully I awoke in recovery with an amazing nurse who stayed by my side and reassured me that there was no rush to leave. But I definitely felt the pressure to “get up and walking” and meet the criteria to be discharged by early evening.
Back at home to heal, I did all the things that were recommended to me by my doctor. Which were essentially just rest and sleep.
So of course I did more. I went to acupuncture, had lymphatic massages, went to reiki, and infrared saunas. I found a better brace that supported me when I was up walking around and I used lavender and jojoba oil on my incisions to reduce inflammation and scarring (which ps. worked beautifully). But most importantly I meditated. Every day. It became my daily work. I’d sit and meditate a few times a day, specifically focusing on healing my womb space and my sacral chakra (this specific meditation was great).
It was important for me not just to heal my incisions, but to heal my whole body. Recognize how this one surgery impacted so much of my being.
But even with all of the extra effort I been put into healing, it’s been more challenging than I expected, and a month later I still don’t feel like I’ve “bounced back (whatever that even means). My body, and my heart, still being corseted in.
Almost feeling deflated and frustrated with my body. In my mind, I thought this would be easier, physically and mentally.
I get tired walking for long periods (and still have to wear my brace). Don’t quite feel safe or supported to practice yoga yet, and am relying on my belly binder for most of the day.
My stomach feels bloated and my whole body is still puffy. I don’t recognize my body physically and I won’t lie and say that it’s been easy seeing it change so much. Feeling soft. Bloated. Weak.
All things that I’m sure are normal and to be expected. But all things I wasn’t aware of, felt unprepared for, and in many ways alone experiencing.
I know that much of this is temporary, but I also believe that there’s a layer of it that’s not. For a long time, I’ve denied that my body is aging. As a society, we’re bombarded with messages everywhere on how aging bodies are unacceptable, undesirable, and less than. Everything from Botox to glamorizing women’s bodies at a certain shape/size at a certain age, to the phrase of “bouncing back”.
And I think we ALL fall victim to this (including me). Expecting or wanting (and in some casing forcing) or bodies to stay or look a certain way. No one is immune from our culture and the expectations placed on how a woman’s body should look.
Part of this experience for me has been around getting comfortable with some of these changes. What it means to sincerely feel “good” in my skin. What I want to work on to feel healthy and strong versus what do I want to learn to love and embrace? I have no interest anymore in beating myself or my body up for doing what it’s naturally designed to do, age.
But more than anything physically, the hardest part of this experience was how emotional it was. Something I definitely wasn’t prepared for.
As women, although we don’t really acknowledge it, our bodies are designed to bear children. To create new lie.
Whether or not we ever carry children of our own, there is a life force in each of us in our wombs that carries this motherly energy. It’s the seat of our intuition, our creativity, sensuality, our power, and our identity.
Science has clearly shown the connection between the gut and the brain, but what we’re just beginning to understand and recognize is the connection between our wombs and our emotions.
When that’s removed, or experience any type of trauma, a part of us is changed. How we see ourselves in relation to the world changes. It can’t help but not.
We are physically different. Just like how giving birth will forever change a woman, removing her womb does the same. And yet, it’s not something anyone shares.
A chapter closes. And we look at our bodies differently. Because we are different.
Before my surgery, I was given great advice from a special friend of mine out here in California. She encouraged me to take time before the surgery and meditate on on this sacred space. To thank my womb for all the life she has given me. All the creativity and energy and life that was birthed from this spot, and then to equally allow me to grieve this loss.
This hysterectomy brought up so many feelings for me. It brought up old heartache around my miscarriage and the loss of that unknown child. It brought up feelings about my c-section with Sloan and missing his birth, asleep under general anesthesia.
It brought up feelings about being a mother to four children and how for many years I felt inadequate to care for them. How I didn’t trust myself early on in motherhood and was constantly looking outside of myself for advice and validation.
It brought up feelings about my sensuality, my body, and how I value myself.
In many ways, I’m still processing the experience as a whole and to be honest, not sure how I feel about it.
There have been days that I’ve questioned if I made the right decision. If it was truly necessary or could have been avoided by doing something differently years before.
And if I’m being honest, In some ways I’m angry.
I’m angry we’re at this point and no one is talking about it. I’m angry that 33% of the women reading this will be encouraged by their doctors to have their wombs removed and feel as though they have no choice.
I’m angry that our healthcare has failed us. That the growths, cysts, and pain that so many women are experiencing, which are the root cause of almost all of these procedures, aren’t being addressed earlier. That we’re not looking into WHY they are happening.
I’m angry that so many women, at every age, are either suffering silently because they’ve been told too many times that this is “normal”, or that they’re going into this surgery because it’s their only option.
A part of me wonders if maybe I’m too emotional, raw, from this experience and if I don’t yet have perspective. Which I’m sure there’s some truth there.
But right now, in this moment, I can’t help but feel a wave of sadness and grief for our sisters, our daughters, and our mothers.
That in many ways our bodies don’t belong to us. That our bodies aren’t being recognized and honored for how truly sacred they are. That our wombs are being seen as disposable.
That in this day in age of modern technology and social connectedness, as women we are more alone now than ever. That our communities and circles are not just disappearing, but so are our stories of these experiences that are so vital to share. Instead, we’re left experiencing these life-changing transitions within the sterile walls of a doctor’s office, behind a screen, or worse, at home alone.
I pray for a time when things are different.
I pray for a time when my daughter has more information about her body than I did. Where she feels more prepared and empowered to make a decision like this. Where her womb is not seen as something that can be governed or controlled or managed. But rather the sacred, holy space that it is.
I pray for a time that she knows that her womb is not just for bearing children, but for all forms of creation and life force. That she knows that this is where her power and creativity and intuition lies and that she protects it like the sacred space that it is.
This I pray for all our daughters.